Muslim groups want early end to voting in Bengal panchayat polls

Kolkata, July 4 (IANS) Various Muslim organisations Thursday demanded early end to voting, exemption for teachers of the community from polling duty and arrangements to perform religious rituals during the coming West Bengal panchayat polls, which are being held during Ramadan.

Taha Siddiqui, Pirzada of Furfura Sharif, met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat, Writers' Buildings, and gave a memorandum listing the community's demands with regard to the participation of its members in the polls.

Talking to media persons afterwards, he expressed "shock" at the polls being scheduled during the Muslim holy month.

"We are shocked. But as law abiding citizens, we will go by the Supreme Court verdict," said Siddiqui, who

"The polls should end by 4 p.m. or at least by 5 p.m. so that the community members can have the Iftar (the ritual breaking of fast)," he said.

Siddiqui also demanded that Muslim teachers from schools, colleges and madrasahs should be exempted from polling duty.

Fifteen Muslim organisations handed over a memorandum to State Election Commissioner Mira Pande calling for setting up extra polling centres in areas with over 40 percent Muslim voters so as to ensure those fasting did not have to stand in queues.

They also demanded that the third phase of the polls on July 19 - which is a Friday - be either advanced or deferred by a day to enable members of the community take part in the prayers.

"If that is not possible, then the vote should be halted between 12 noon and 1.30 p.m. so that they (community members) could participate in the Friday namaaz."

The five-phase polls are slated for July 11, 15, 19, 22 and 25. Ramadan begins from the second week of July.

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